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Course Hero. (2018, March 22). Steppenwolf Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved November 15, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Steppenwolf/

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Course Hero. "Steppenwolf Study Guide." March 22, 2018. Accessed November 15, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Steppenwolf/.

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Course Hero, "Steppenwolf Study Guide," March 22, 2018, accessed November 15, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Steppenwolf/.

Steppenwolf | Author's Note—1961 | Summary

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Summary

Hesse writes that poetic writing has many interpretations and may often be misunderstood, but that even misunderstandings may lead to unexpected insights. He feels, however, Steppenwolf has been the most misunderstood of his books. He conjectures this may have happened because the book's topic, the problems of a 50-year-old, is not relatable to "very young readers." Of middle-aged readers, though, Hesse surmises that many take away only half of his intended message. While these readers may identify with the Steppenwolf's suffering, they may overlook the theme of a "second, higher, indestructible world beyond the Steppenwolf and his problematic life." This world of "immortals" rises above everyday concerns and offers a timeless existence of positivity and peace. Hesse views the Steppenwolf's key characteristic not as despair, but as faith. To him the book is not about "death and destruction" but about healing.

Analysis

Hesse's note echoes the plot of Steppenwolf in its essence. Through most of the novel protagonist Haller clings to gloom and despair, seeing these as his destiny. Haller is free to choose positive experiences in the Magic Theater and is encouraged to do so by the immortals. However, his habitual negativity leads to tragic results rather than transcendence. Similarly, Hesse points out, many readers see only the pain and suffering of the book, which may be considered realistic, rather than its latent positivity. The notion of a "second, higher, indestructible world" may be dismissed as fantasy by some readers and therefore ignored. However, this concept is so important to Hesse that more than 30 years after the book's publication he feels compelled to draw attention to it. Hesse has aimed to write a hopeful book, not a depressing one, and he doesn't want the reader to miss that critical point.

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